Hoverboard Manufacturer Wins Dismissal of Consumer Product

On Monday, Eastern District of Tennessee Judge Clifton L. Corker dismissed a federal Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) claim lodged by a Tennessee family against hoverboard manufacturer Jet.com, Inc. The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted because they did not have a private right of action under the CPSA.

The case arose from an incident involving a hoverboard or “‘self-balancing scooter’” supplied by Jet.com, which the plaintiff family’s child won in a giveaway at her school. After the child charged the hoverboard and turned it on, it began to spark and smoke, causing “severe fire and smoke damage” to the bedroom and rest of the family home, according to the court’s order. The family moved out while the home was repaired. An investigation of the fire’s cause revealed that the Jet.com hoverboard was to blame.

In addition to a CPSA claim, the plaintiffs brought claims under products liability, negligence, intentional negligent misrepresentation, the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and breach of implied warranty causes of action. In issuing the present order, the court analyzed the CPSA claim only.

In holding that the plaintiffs had not stated a cognizable claim under the CPSA, the court considered whether a violation of “certain voluntary safety standards for hoverboards,” created a right of action under the statute.

Chiefly, the plaintiffs argued that a 2016 Consumer Product Safety Commission letter issued to manufacturers, importers, and retailers of hoverboards constituted a “consumer product safety rule, or other rule.” The letter pressed them to “make certain that self-balancing scooters that they import, manufacture, distribute, or sell in the United States comply with currently applicable voluntary safety standards, including all referenced standards and requirements contained in UL 2272 – Outline of Investigation for Electrical Systems for Self-balancing Scooters.”

The defendant argued that “these voluntary standards do not classify as a promulgated rule or order and therefore do not give rise to a private right of action.” The court agreed, holding that “the CPSA expressly limits a private right of action to violations of a consumer product safety rule or other rule or order issued by the CPSC.” The court reasoned that holding “otherwise would circumvent the plain meaning of the statute and the CPSA’s own definitions.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Owings, Wilson & Coleman. The defendant is represented by Howell & Fisher.